Black Friday. Cyber Monday. Shopping. Sales. Crowds. Retail focus. Lost sleep.
Sound like your weekend?
I’d love to bring the focus back to traditions. This past Thursday a new week’s worth of content was published for my Project Real Life students and the theme of this week’s content is “Part of cultivating a good life is honoring tradition”. I rounded up dozens of fantastic tradition ideas from many of my personal friends and I shared many of these traditions with my students.
But I saved all the Christmas-specific traditions for you – my blog readers. Because ’tis the season that this is on our minds, right? Enjoy the ideas. Allow yourself to be inspired. Maybe a new idea will pop into your mind. Appreciate the traditions you are carrying on in your own homes. And may this entire Christmas season have many beautiful memories in store for you and yours.
Community = Family. The “Hill Party” is a long-time tradition for more than 60 years. Started on a little street in Arlington, Virginia nicknamed “Moroni Hill” – my dad’s family and all the neighbors on Moroni Hill would get together each Christmas Eve. Always the same menu. Always the same, familiar faces. Always a talent show that was mostly musical. The tradition continues still today with those who are around to attend. - Becky
Saving to serve others. As a family we would do extra chores during December to earn extra allowance. With the extra money we earned we would pick a family in our community that needed a little something extra that Christmas season. On Christmas Eve we would secretly deliver our presents to their doorstep and run away. Always brought the real meaning of Christmas into our hearts. - Meiken
Same meal. We have soup every Christmas Eve. – Allison
Nutcrackers for decor. Years ago we started collecting nutcrackers during the holidays and now we look for them everywhere we go. The kids point them out whenever they see them and we buy them throughout the year. We only display them during the holiday season – whether they are holiday themed or not. – Kari
No peeking! On Christmas Eve we continue Andy’s family tradition of wallpapering the kids door shut — no peeking!! On Christmas morning the kids get to burst through and see their new things. - Heidi
Ornament exchange. Instead of exchanging gifts with my siblings and all the cousins, we do an ornament exchange at Thanksgiving each year. We draw names and then buy an ornament for that person. It’s fun to choose an ornament that reminds us of that person. We have a blast seeing everyone’s reactions to their ornaments each year! When my kids leave home, they’ll automatically have a handful of meaningful ornaments to adorn their own tree! – Erin
Meaningful charms. Every Christmas Eve we would gather around the dinner table (mom always made clam chowder and chile on Christmas eve) and at each of our place settings there would be a little box. After dinner, we would go around the table and take turns opening our boxes. Inside there would be anywhere from 3 to a half a dozen charms, each signifying something special that had happened in our lives that year. They weren’t to be worn, although I do remember getting a charm bracelet the first year (so I suppose we COULD have worn them if we’d wanted to). They were simply to signify milestones in our lives… and everything we had to be grateful for. The year I graduated from high school, there was a graduation cap. One year we had a family vacation in Yellowstone, so we each got a moose charm. The summer after graduation from high school, I went to London so that next Christmas Eve, I got a charm of one of those famous phone booths in the UK. Each Christmas Eve, after looking at all our new charms, we’d immediately go back through all our old ones and talk about all those beautiful family memories they represented—things we would have easily forgotten without those silly little trinkets. Looking back, it must have been such a fun tradition for her. She would spend all year collecting special charms to serve as monuments for the most amazing occasions of our lives—what a way to keep Christmas in her heart all year long. I’m 31 now, and I still look forward to opening my box of charms on Christmas Eve. - Natalie
Book advent. A new holiday tradition we started two years ago includes buying a few new Christmas books and wrapping them with ones purchased from years past, then unwrapping a book each night and reading before bed. I wrap each one in different paper and set on the counter each morning to excite, torture and oftentimes bribe my kids. I imagine as they get older it won’t have the same effect. – Amber
Traditional cookies. My mom always made Santa cookies with us. It is a certain mold that has steps. We all have the same mold now. – Jen
Homemade wrapping paper. One of my favorite traditions in my own family is making homemade wrapping paper for the gifts we give at the holidays and for family birthdays. We use butcher paper and decorate it and write notes to our loved ones (immediate and extended family) about the reasons we love them. It’s not always a beautiful work of art but is much loved and appreciated by the receiver. - Monique
3 favorite traditions. Advent Jesse Tree, birthday cake for Jesus, driving around looking at lights on Christmas Eve. - Karen
Finding the trees. We used to drive north to the pine forests in northern/eastern AZ every day-after-Thanksgiving and cut down our Christmas tree. There were six of us kids, and as we married, spouses came too. We would not only get our own trees, but we got three or four for the school where my dad worked, for friends, and other relatives. Needless to say, we got a lot of trees every year. When we got them home, some were quite bare. They always looked better in the forest, while others were massive. It was always fun to see what our tree would look like. Some were rather comical! - Ann
Gumball quarters. We take quarters, tape, and little notes with us when we go shopping. We’ll tape two quarters and a note to a gum ball machine or ride machine in the mall and then watch from afar to see the surprise and joy on someone’s face when they see the quarters and our note saying “We left this just for you! Merry Christmas!” So fun! - Kari
Giving is gaining. One tradition from growing up that we did every year was we would go shopping for a family in need and then as a family we would get to take it to their house put it all in a big red Santa bag, ring the doorbell and RUN!! I can’t express how much all of us kids looked forward to this every year. It felt so much better to give than to get! - Megan
Ornaments. When Fred and I got married, I had the job of creating a new blended family Christmas tree that first year. So I had to sort out all of Fred’s Christmas ornaments and all mine, and be very careful to not to choose too much from one side or the other. Then as a family we decided to purchase a new ornament each year with the date. I still use 90% of those first ornaments and we love shopping together for a special “this year” ornament. My Daughter also does the new ornament each year. - Susan
Beloved box of cereal. My favorite childhood tradition for Christmas was getting our very own box of cereal! We did not have a lot of money growing up and this was so awesome! We could pick anything we wanted and it was all ours… sugar-filled or not! – Haley
Homemade candy. Every year a few days before Christmas an elderly lady would come over to our house and we would make hard tac candy from scratch. My mom would let us each choose our own flavor and color. I always chose black licorice and made it blue. I remember it took a long time to stir and when you finally could pour it into a thick layer of powdered sugar and roll it into a long snake…it was super hot so you had to be careful. After that we cut the hardening candy into bite sized pieces and rolled them into balls. All of this had to be done quickly before it hardened. We each got our own Baggie of the flavors we wanted and we passed the other out to our neighbors for a treat. I looked forward to doing this every year. - Tresure
Holiday Legos. Last year we discovered that Lego has started creating a holiday village by releasing a new piece each year. We bought the pieces we could find last year (2 of 3 available) and the kids put them together while Steve and I were setting up other holiday decor. We have already bought our new piece for this year and can’t wait to see the kids putting all 3 pieces together this year – it is so fun to see them work together as a team to make it happen … they are pretty complex creations! – Kari
Reaching out to the lonely. I remember my parents always having the youth from church over during the holidays to help make and package plates of goodies to take around to the widows and single women in our congregation and community. We now do something similar with our own family but would love to invite the youth over to do it with us. It means the world to those ladies at that time of year and often helped them feel a “connection” that was sometimes hard to come by. - Kari
Games, games, games. This is a tradition we still do with my extended family. Every Christmas we play lots of board games and card games. Because of this tradition, is is almost guaranteed that someone in the family will receive a new game as a gift. As we have gotten older and have had kids of our own, we now have multiple game sessions so that we can play games with our kids and play games with just the adults. There are always tons of snacks and goodies around while we play. – Laurie
Gingerbread. A tradition we do with our grandkids is annual gingerbread making. We get together with our 11 grandkids – sometimes all at once, and sometimes with each family group. The houses are constructed ahead of time (by me!) and the kids get the fun of decorating them and eating as much candy as they can in the process! Such fun! - Ann
Gifts for Jesus. When we set up our Christmas tree the first gift under it (and we don’t put any others under the tree for awhile afterward) is a small wrapped box with a slit in the top, and next to it is a stack of papers and pens. Throughout the weeks leading up to Christmas when anyone in our family does something nice for someone else that person writes it on a piece of paper and slips it into the box… our gifts to Jesus. On Christmas morning, before opening any other gifts, we read through all the gifts we gave to Jesus over the past month… from playing a game with Sydney when she’s sad, to taking food and hats to the homeless downtown. It really helps us focus on the real meaning of Christmas all season long! - Kari
Lighting up the community. Every year on the first Saturday of December we drive to Prescott, Arizona for their annual Christmas courthouse lighting. The high school sings Christmas carols to start off and then somebody who is of importance to the city proceeds to read the birth of Christ from the Bible. Once finished, the square is lit with thousands of Christmas lights. It is such a great feeling of community as everyone comes together to remember the true meaning of Christmas. It also gives us a little taste of that Christmas weather we sometimes miss, living in the desert! - Lynsee
Carry-over from other holidays. We fill an advent calendar for the month of December for the kids with candy leftover from Halloween. - Stephanie
Story. The one tradition that we always did as a family on Christmas Eve was to read Twas the Night Before Christmas around the tree. My children have learned the tradition in our own home because as an adult, I still get super excited about carrying on a 35 year old tradition to my own children. We snuggle around one another and dimly light the room where the tree is and read with so much excitement that we all GLOW! As a result of SO many years, I have the entire book memorized! - Deanna
Breakfast. We have little smokies (sausages) every Christmas morning – only on Christmas. - Thomas
Grateful for the simple things. When I was a little girl my family had very little money. Because of our meager circumstances, we never had money to splurge on things. Everything we ate, wore, or bought was generic. Nothing name brand. Nothing fancy or trendy. Just the simple needs. One year on Christmas morning, my dad thought he would WOW the kids with something we had never had. Captain Crunch cereal. Seems trite but we literally thought we were the richest people in the world to have REAL cereal. No knock off brands, no homemade cracked wheat or oatmeal. Real, sugary, deliciousness in all its golden glory. And all the kids would say “Oh thank you, Thank you. This is the BEST breakfast ever…” My parents loved how grateful we were for such a small but fun thing. It was such a big deal that it began to be our Christmas morning tradition. And each year we would thank my parents for the scrumptious indulgence. Over the years as we grew, and my parents became more financially stable, the Christmas breakfast has become more of an symbol rather than a ethereal treat. It reminds us that no matter how much or how little we have, GRATITUDE is the most important gift to give others. It is the gift gives both to the giver and the receiver. – Eden
The gift of adventure. The kids get to pick one present under the tree to unwrap on Christmas Eve, along with the PJs they get each year. Christmas church service is always a tradition, a non-negotiable. We also like to do one Christmas event each yea. One year it was the Polar Express, or McCormick Railroad Park, last year it was NYC, the year before that it was the play – Nutcracker. We try to switch it up. – Michele
Sentimental ornaments. A tradition I do for my kids is buy them an ornament each year from me and Phil. The ornament is something that represents them that year. I always wrap the ornaments and give it to them on December 1st after we decorate our tree. They love decorating our tree and remembering every year of their life by the ornaments that represent them. - Meiken
Booby traps! This tradition started with my mom and her growning up years. My parents always wanted to be there to see the looks on our faces when we saw the Christmas tree on Christmas morning but we were VERY early risers. So my mom would always booby trap the hallway to prevent us from getting into the living room. Of course when we would wake up in the middle of the night, we spent the rest of the night trying to get through the booby traps without waking them up. So fun! We also loved hearing stories of the kind of traps devised by my grandparents for my mom and her siblings and how they always got past them. I haven’t started it yet with my kids but maybe this year will be the first since they are now very early risers as well. - Tiffany
Feel free to chime in with one of your favorite holiday traditions. I’d love to see inspiration continue on and on.